The Moon is not exactly the most hospitable place for Earth dwellers: the lack of atmosphere, the stable temperature on the surface of our satellite and the air make this whitish-gray sphere above our heads an utterly inappropriate place to live. At the same time, the scientists developed a new technology for extracting the oxygen we needed directly from the lunar soil – the regolith.
Is oxygen on the moon?
Although there is no oxygen at all in the thinnest lunar atmosphere, a good deal of it is contained in lunar dust, which completely covers the surface of our natural satellite. Studies show that about 40-50% of the regolith is exactly oxygen that can be released when exposed to electrical current. The current is able to dissolve oxygen atoms from oxide molecules and immediately solve two important tasks: On the one hand we get a large amount of free oxygen, on the other hand we have a whole series of metal alloys that are used for the construction of future lunar bases and colonies would be extremely useful.
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To test their theory, Cambridge University researchers used samples of lunar regoliths provided by NASA experts. During an experiment to extract oxygen from lunar soil, it was found that about three tons of regolith can produce about one ton of oxygen when using special electrochemical reactors, each one about one meter high. Experts intend to use solar panels for their full-fledged work, which can store solar energy during a lunar day. For a more stable and uninterrupted power supply to the future colony, it may also be necessary to build a nuclear minireactor that scientists believe will be installed on the Earth's satellite in the relatively near future.
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It has already been officially confirmed that all metal extracted as a side effect of electrolysis is fully suitable for further processing and operation. The by-product thus contained alloys of iron, aluminum, silicon and calcium as well as mixtures thereof. This discovery means that the method of electrolysis of the lunar soil can be incredibly valuable, even if it turns out that oxygen can be obtained in some way from the alleged reserves of water ice on the moon. In any case, the use of the electrolysis of lunar regolith will enable the first settlers to gain stable access to oxygen for fuels and livelihoods, as well as a wide range of metal alloy production for production well away from the earth.